TKE: I have a confession to make, one gamer girl to another: As I read Gamer Girl, I found myself wishing that it had been written when I was in high school — I might not have felt like such a geek! I definitely could have used a support group an after-school club. It seems, though, that gamer girls are no longer an oddity in today’s culture. What do you think has changed since we were in school?
MM: I think today mainstream culture has embraced technology much more than it did in the past. Computers used to be seen as geeky and fringe—now everyone has at least one. And game companies have been marketing much more toward female players, creating games where the storylines are just as important as the technical game play. I think girls enjoy getting immersed in virtual worlds, creating their own characters and interacting with other real life people online. With the Internet, gaming has become much more social and oftentimes you’re working in a team to achieve a common directive, instead of just competing one on one. I think that kind of thing appeals to girl gamers.
TKE: Your main character Maddy is not only an online gamer, but an aspiring manga artist. In GG you mention several different kinds of manga, as well as a few different series that your characters love. How did you get into manga, and how would you introduce it to a noob?
MM: It started with a love for anime. I loved watching it and also really got really into the Final Fantasy videogame series, which is basically playable anime. It was only later that I realized the animation that I loved could be just as enjoyable in a two-dimensional book format.
I think some people can dismiss the genre as something for children only—just glorified comic books really—but I’m constantly surprised at the sophistication of many of the storylines. You have great character building, wonderful stories, romance, adventure—anything you can get in a regular book. They’re just so much fun to read.
And I still love watching anime as well. One of my favorite series, .hack//sign, focuses on an online massive multiplayer videogame called The World. Has a great message about real life versus the virtual kind.
As for the noobs, I always like to start them with something really approachable and easy to read—like some of the TokyoPop stuff for example. Dramacon, an American series by Svetlana Chmakova, is a great starter manga, in my opinion. It’s fun, light and so adorable.
And I do want to add, one of the greatest things for me personally was when my Blood Coven series was translated into Japanese. The publisher had an artist draw manga style pictures of some of the scenes in the book. The drawings are amazing and really capture the essence of the novels, I think. Sure, it’s not like having a full manga adaptation, but it’s definitely the next best thing.
TKE: Who are your influences, as an author?
MM: As an author I’m influenced by everything. What I see, what I read, what happens in real life, what happens when I’m gaming. For Young Adult novels like Gamer Girl, I also take memories from my own high school experiences. The whole bullying aspect of the book was based on something similar that I went through as a teen myself.
TKE: One (ok, or two) of your favorite authors/and or books, and why?
MM: I love fantasy so Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Mists of Avalon is definitely up there as a favorite book. I guess you could compare it to a feminist retelling of the King Arthur story and I’ve always had a thing for Arthurian legend. In fact, my next young adult book (coming in summer 2010) is a time-travel adventure called The Camelot Code.
Thanks, Mari, for being a great interview and a fantastic author!